Istanbul, Sep 15 () - Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation into the Doğan Media Group for “terrorist propaganda” following a widely derided front-page story in pro-government daily Güneş.
The Chief Prosecutor’s Office in Istanbul’s Bakırköy district launched the probe on Sept. 15, after accepting the front page that the tabloid published five days earlier as a criminal denunciation. Some of the claims in the Güneş story had already been declared unfounded by the Turkish judiciary, which had refused to launch a case.
Deputy Chief Prosecutor İdris Kurt, however, took Güneş’s allegations seriously and initiated the probe.
One of the claims that was previously dropped was a headline on Hürriyet’s website, saying, “He received 52 percent but they issued a death penalty” which was a quote by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan regarding the death sentence against ousted Egyptian President Mohamad Morsi. Pro-government media then claimed, however, that Hürriyet threatened Erdoğan with the headline as the president received 52 percent of the vote in August 2014 elections, but the claim was later rejected by a Turkish prosecutor who decided not to launch a probe.
Another Güneş claim that triggered the probe into Doğan, which owns daily Hürriyet, the CNNTürk TV channel and the Hürriyet Daily News, among other outlets, was related to CNNTürk reporter Cüneyt Özdemir’s interview with Ayşe Deniz Karacagil, a prominent Gezi Park protester. Özdemir interviewed the activist after she was released from prison in February 2014 pending trial that could result in close to 100 years in jail for participating in the protests. The woman joined the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) four months after the broadcast.
The probe comes nearly two months into the resumption of fighting between the Turkish military and the PKK, after the collapse of a two-year-old cease-fire. Since July, more than 110 Turkish security forces have been killed by PKK militants. Meanwhile, the army is pressing a relentless offensive against PKK strongholds in southeast Turkey and in northern Iraq.
The case against Doğan is set to add to concern over deteriorating press freedoms in Turkey under Erdoğan, with a number of journalists facing legal proceedings for allegedly insulting top officials, according to Agence France-Presse.
On Sept. 14, Turkish police raided the offices of Nokta news magazine after it featured a photomontage portraying Erdoğan taking a selfie at a soldier’s funeral.
The offices of Hürriyet were attacked twice last week for allegedly misquoting Erdoğan. The first attack on Sept. 6 was led by a Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy.